The Chicago Blackhawks promised changes after getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.
They started the day by dealing a mainstay defenceman to an Arizona team that is accelerating their rebuilding plan.
Statistically Speaking looks at the deal sending Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona.
2016-2017 NHL STATS
2016-2017 AHL STATS
|Laurent Dauphin||Tucson (AHL)||C||38||17||11||28||-10|
The Coyotes Get: D Niklas Hjalmarsson
Hjalmarsson, 30, is the rare defensive defenceman who doesn’t struggle to get recognized for his prowess. Playing big minutes on three Stanley Cup winners has a way of doing that, but the numbers back the notion that Hjalmarsson is a shutdown defender, whether it comes to shot attempts or goals against relative to his team, which is impressive considering that his standard night involves tough matchups against the opposition’s best line.
The forwards that Hjalmarsson has played against the most over the past four years: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler, Zach Parise, Nathan MacKinnon.
Even though he’s surpassed 20 points in a season just twice, Hjalmarsson is a top-pair defenceman who has played more than 20 minutes per game for six straight seasons. He doesn’t hit much, but blocks shots and keeps the puck moving despite difficult circumstances. In Arizona, the left-shooting Hjalmarsson should play the right side, adding stability alongside fellow Swede Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Hjalmarsson is signed for two more seasons at a rather reasonable $4.1-million cap hit.
The Blackhawks Get: D Connor Murphy, C Laurent Dauphin
Murphy is a 24-year-old right-shot defenceman who is 6-foot-4 and plays a physical defensive game. He hasn’t been especially effective in that role, certainly not to the point that he would be considered a shutdown defender, but Chicago’s hope has to be that he’s on the way up in his career, and if he gets partnered with Duncan Keith, then that could certainly help Murphy generate better results.
Over the past four seasons, Murphy’s most frequent forward opponents have been: Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Milan Lucic, Logan Couture and Jordan Eberle.
This is a big bet for Chicago, though. Murphy is signed for five years, at a cap hit of $3.85-million, so if he can’t handle a big role on the Blackhawks blueline that will cause even bigger problems.
Dauphin, 22, was a second-round pick in 2013 and he’s seen action in 32 NHL games over the past couple of seasons, managing four points (3 G, 1 A). He has some skill, and is on the skinny side, but he could compete for a depth role in Chicago.
Verdict: This is a big move from both teams. From Arizona’s perspective, they are apparently no longer content being bottom-feeders (more on this in a future Statistically Speaking) and Hjalmarsson represents an immediate upgrade on their blueline. That it probably meets with the approval of their best player, Ekman-Larsson, doesn’t hurt. From Chicago’s perspective, they don’t save much money on this deal, so it’s more of a philosophical shift, getting younger and more physical on defence, but there is legitimate reason to be concerned about the drop-off from Hjalmarsson to Murphy, and that figures to have a negative impact on their defensive play. For a Chicago team that had 50.9% of score-adjusted shot attempts last year, they can’t really affort any decrease in effectiveness. But, the Blackhawks are busy (more in a very near future Statistically Speaking).
Scott Cullen can be reached at email@example.com